This is progress?

April 30, 2007

Bush and the Europeans have agreed that global warming is a problem, better technology is the solution and we’re going to wait and not do anything. This may be the optimal path, but it isn’t progress. This is progress in the sense that agreeing to eventually solve a problem at no cost is progress.

Have they no shame at all?

April 30, 2007

ABC in a 20/20 broadcast is going to release all the phone records of clients of the prostitution service uncovered in D.C. This information really serves no public purpose unless you are talking about government officials. Instead a bunch of lobbyists and government workers are going to get nailed and all for some ratings. You’d think that networks would draw the line at following through on a blackmail attempt, but they’ve demonstrated they have no standards, none whatsoever.

A demagogue’s tour of food stamps.

April 26, 2007

The governor of Oregon is on a crusade to show how tough it is to have only food stamps by spending only $ 21 for a week on food. Reading articles about his difficult task shows that people like this have no real idea of economy. For example the article describes the governor going for the organic bananas before heading for the regular ones. In the spirit of the things I’ll try to construct a $3 a day diet with not much repetition.

1. Supplies-2 pounds of pasta and a jar of sauce
Cost         $2.50
Meals Supplied- 5
This alone is an easy way to reduce costs. I would have done more, but I thought that some variety would be better

2. Supplies- White Bread and a jar of peanut butter
Cost $3-4 (I’m purposely being pessimistic and not including the savings from using the jar of peanut butter for the next week, the same applies for the pasta sauce.)
Meals supplied 4

3. Supplies 4 Ramen Noodle Containers
Cost- Around $1.50
Meals supplied- 2
4. Supplies-Cereal and Milk
Cost- $5
Meals- 5
5. Beans and Hot dogs (chicken)
Cost- $4
Meals supplied- 3
6. Chicken and Mashed potatoes
Cost $4
Meas supplied-2

There, without much effort I constructed a diet which has nutritional value and is completely paid for. In fact within a week or two you could be adding some fruits and vegetables into your meals with the money you save on the excess supply. In fact I used pessimistic conditions for this exercise. In fact all this tells me is that people who plan properly can eat better than any other time in history for no cost. Maybe we should cut food stamps a bit?

Jewish History fun

April 25, 2007

I was sitting in Jewish History class and I was bored (in addition he was grading tests and he gives us a study period whenever he does so if I could get him off topic long enough we would have another free day.

On the test one of the questions was, “True or False Israel and China are the only countries which have had the same religion practiced by the same group in their country as 3,000 years ago.” Wanting to have some fun I asked, “3,000 years ago wasn’t the religion of Israel more Baal than Judaism, I mean this was the time of the Shoftim and for most of that time they were worshiping idols.” So he said that this was only a small fraction of the Jews and I asked why we couldn’t assume that the Navi was talking literally. He was silent for a couple of seconds and then said that Rabbi Avigdor Miller said it wasn’t like that then he brought up three examples which he said proved that you could not learn the Torah without the Oral Torah. The first was Moshe after the rock being told he wouldn’t enter Israel because he didn’t believe in Hashem and Moshe obviously did believe in him however in the case of the rock Moshe quite literally did not put his faith in G-d going against his express command (not to say that we would have done better). The second and more convincing one was the story of the loss at Ai. Hashem told Yehoshua that there was a great sin which caused the loss. It turns out that the great sin was only one person looting from the city of Yericho. However, this can be deflected by saying that there must have been some other people with knowledge of his theft, which was not minor, and covered it up.

The final proof was flawed in many ways. This proof was that if you read the Navi literally is that you will conclude that Dovid committed adultery when we know from the Talmud that he didn’t. Aside from the circular nature of this proof (if you don’t learn Navi to correspond with the Talmud you’ll disagree with the Talmud at times) and the fact that it is only one opinion which says he didn’t sin, you can argue with the Gemara’s interpretation of a non-halachic story in Tanach. However, lets examine the story more closely. First the whole assumption that it wasn’t adultery is based on the assumption that if he committed adultery he couldn’t have married her. However, the whole concept of being forbidden to the man you committed adultery which may have been instituted after they could no longer practically institute the death penalty. Furthermore throughout the narrative Batsheva is called the wife of Uriah which makes it more likely that he was truly married to her at the time. The other question which could be asked is why is there an emphasis about her being ritually clean, shouldn’t that pale in comparison to adultery? However, in truth the fact that she had just come back from the mikvah is crucial because it kept Dovid from calling it Uriah’s child. In the end people who take an apologetic view of Dovid say that Uriah had made a conditional divorce if he died in battle. Therefore once he died in battle in retroactively became no adultery. However that still leaves you with the problem of how Dovid could kill Uriah. On this point the standard defense is that Uriah rebelled against the king and therefore was rightfully killed. However given the timing the offense could have only come while Uriah was called back from the front. There are two possible rebellions during this period. The first is him referring to his commanding officer Yoav as Adoni Yoav. However, this seems to be a very weak possibility as Adoni seems like a title of respect not a title of lordship. The other time is when he refuses to go home and sleep with Batsheva. There are two possible reasons for this

  1. He knew that Dovid had slept with Batsheba. In this case he was forbidden by the Torah from sleeping with her. It is generally accepted that the Torah takes precedence over a kings orders.
  2. His stated reason was, how can I sleep at home while the Ark and my soldiers are out in battle. In fact if this was stated by any other person it would be taken as evidence of his righteousness not rebellion.

Furthermore, Dovid’s words were probably construed as a suggestion and a polite way of saying he was of duty for the moment rather than an order.

The last and largest issue was that Dovid ordered the Jews to lose a battle to have Uriah killed. Having your men retreat from behind Uriah and his unit is murder plain and simple and if it is possible is treason.

Now the Talmud doesn’t say this, but it is a serious story and one which does not have to be interpreted the way R’ Shmuel bar Nachmani does.

Why do Presidents not show up to these funerals anymore?

April 25, 2007

Boris yeltsin dies and had a funeral and we sent George H.W. and Clinton. Now I may be making a moutain out of a molehill, but Yeltsin was one of the key figures of the last 20 years and did as much as anyone to end communism. Isn’t his funeral worth going to for President Bush?

Another Earth

April 25, 2007

We’ve found a planet which fits Earth’s profile afte finding 200 or so which have been Jupiter planets at Mercury distances. In fact that is pretty much all we can usually detect is massive planets close to a star. This means that odds are there are hundreds of thousands of Earth like planets within a 100 light years. The other thing this means is that our space efforts should be focused on getting ships up to relativistic speeds so that we can find out what is going on in that planet. The other thing this planet’s discovery implies is that the chances of a planet being able to support life are far better than some people have supposed. It also means that alien life is all he more likely.

This is in a medical journal why?

April 23, 2007

A few doctors have published an attack on the Supreme Court’s partial birth abortion ban. This is based on their professional opinion on privacy rights and the constitutionality of the law. In fact it isn’t even discussing the medical issues of the no “mother’s health” exemption. It is simply attacking the court because by making this decision which, they don’t seem to argue the constitutionality of they might allow Congress to enter onto a slippery slope with results these doctors don’t like. This is a perfectly reasonable and widely held view, but it doesn’t belong in a medical journal. For the New England Journal of Medicine to publish the screed gives the impression that these people are speaking as doctors, when really they are talking as Democrats.