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Joshua Sharf

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November 30, 2006

Taking Oaths

I see where the Volokh-Prager debate over the propriety of taking an oath of office on a Koran has migrated to TV. Ellison seems to be a pretty despicable character, and it's a damn shame the voters in his district couldn't find someone else to give that sinecure to, but that said, I think Prager's wrong on this one.

First of all, let's dispense with the "religious test" stuff that Reynolds brings up. This isn't a legal argument, it's a political-symbolic one, and no one's suggesting that Ellison not be allowed to take office because he's a Muslim. In any event, the Islamist apologists are always talking about how the Bible is holy to them, too.

That said, as a couple of Orthodox Jews who called into his show Tuesday said, the book you take the oath on isn't for the benefit of the country, it's for your own. You put your hand on a book you believe in, and Prager's straw-man argument that you have to believe every word is the literal truth is off the mark. Reform Jews believe the Hebrew Bible is holy, they just believe it was written by men, not God.

But I think it's possible to win this argument even on Prager's terms. Washington, Madison, Monroe, Franklin, and other Framers were Freemasons. I'm a Freemason. The rule is that the oath of membership in the society is taken on whatever book is deemed holy to the person taking the oath. To claim that this understanding of what an oath means is incorrect is to invalidate the understanding that the Framers had of oaths, the very Framers that Prager is seeking to venerate by insisting that Ellison use a Bible.

November 29, 2006

Wednesday Morning

Snow. Cold. When they gang up on you, the roads turn into skating rinks. For the first time, I had to use the 4WD just tooling around town. Of course, the Jeep is rear-wheel drive normally, not front-wheel as I'm used to, but even 4WD doesn't help your braking all that much. It just means that you slide straight. The snow's still coming down even now, but tomorrow's supposed to be sunny, so perhaps there will be photo-ops anew.

So having finished the NASD licensing steeplechase, and not yet having renewed the Quest for the CFA, I've got a little time on my hands in the evenings, and I've decided that at least one of the adult ed classes at the shul must be for me. Last night I tried out the beginning Talmud class - the nth beginning Talmud class I've tried - and it went pretty well.

Business-halachah-legal geekery follows immediately.

We're learning Tractate Makkot, and it deals in part with the penalties for perjury in civil cases. The basic rule is that if you lie under oath as a witness, and if that lie would have cost someone money, you owe that person damages equal to what you tried to cost them. So if you falsely claim that someone stole $1000, and that lie is uncovered and the claim denied, you owe the accused $1000, since that's what you tried to do him out of.

Apply this to a loan. You claim that Bob borrowed $1000 for 30 days and now needs to pay it back. Bob claims the loan was for 10 years. What would your lie have cost him? Not $1000, since everyone agrees that he needs to pay that back anyway.

In fact, you'd owe Bob what he would have been willing to pay to have the money for 10 years, minus what he'd be willing to pay to have it for 30 days. I'm not sure how they would have calculated this back in 200 CE, but nowadays, you'd just apply the short-term and long-term interest rates to determine the value of having the money on hand. (There are halachic issues with charging interest, but set those aside for the moment.) In short, the raabis understood, at least at some level, the notion of opportunity cost and the time value of money.

Pretty neat, huh?

Less neat is this week-old piece from the Denver Post about minority enrollment at CU. Since this is a report about a report (a Boorstinian pseudo-event of the first order), objections to the diagnosis and prescriptions are anticipated and dismissed:

The study accused flagship universities of blaming their low diversity on inadequate state funding and the K-12 system.

Instead, they should direct more financial aid to low-income students, recruit minority students more aggressively and focus on helping minority students succeed in college, the report said.

Unasked by the reporter or by the CU administration: of the Colorado high school graduates who qualify as "minorities" under their definition, how many can actually read at 12-grade levels, and why is it CU's job to remediate this problem?

November 28, 2006

LPR Cheat Sheet

Milton Friedman's Free To Choose is required reading for the LPR program. Now, IdeaChannel is streaming both the original 1980 version and the 1990 update for free.

I'd also suggest the version of Atlas Shrugged, but I'm not sure that even long-haul truckers have that kind of commuting time.

UPDATE: Some people just can't leave well enough alone.

November 27, 2006

An Islamist Thanksgiving

If it were only jelly beans, toast and popcorn, that would have been ok.

No this year, Rima Barakat and Imam Kazerooni teamed up with the Muslim Brotherhood, AKA, the Muslim American Society, to sponsor the interfaith Thanksgiving service, proving that Sunnis and Shiites can work together, after all. At least when they have a common enemy:

Kazerooni said he doesn't think there will be strong objections to downplaying the concept of a historical Thanksgiving based on the Pilgrims' arrival in America.

"It may have had some historical context when it started, going back to the Puritans," he said.

But when it comes to making it the only way to celebrate Thanksgiving, "the concept is no longer valid," Kazerooni said. "Now it comes in the context of church and faith and thanking almighty God for everything we have and bringing this kind of blessing to everyone else."

Look, when we celebrate Thanksgiving, we nod to the fact that the original Thanksgivers were Puritans, and then we go on to celebrate this American holiday by giving thanks for being in America. If Barakat or Kazerooni evinced such sentiments, they didn't make it into the Rocky.

I'll point out again that Kazerooni's Abrahamic Initiative is funded by the Rose Foundation, hosted by a church, and includes no Jews, except on an ah-hoc basis. An Abrahamic Initiative that includes Ishamel and Esau but excludes Isaac and Jacob except as underwriters seems, ah, incomplete.

Muslim participants this year are Kazerooni; Imam Abdul-Rahim Ali, of the North East Denver Islamic Center; and Djilali Casem, president of the Denver Muslim American Society.

Note that the Muslim American Society is the American branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, as detailed here and here.

Then, there's MILA.

This year, donations from participants will go the Muslim outreach program Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism, which provides assistance to Muslims who are impoverished or needy. (November 22)

At the offering, the parishioners and congregation gave monetary donations to help the Muslims Intent on Learning and Activism, or MILA, a charity that provides services and educational programs to members of the Muslim community. (November 23)

Certainly it could be both, although the former is more likely to attract non-Muslim donors, one would think. Still, it's worth asking just what sort of educational programs the interfaith were supporting this year.

Given this all-star roster, I think it's pretty clear exactly what kind of activism local Muslims were being encouraged to learn about.

College Football Is A Playoff

Look, I like college football the way it is. Except for this hangup about playing almost all the games on Shabbat, of course. The regular-season rivalries have value precisely because there's no playoff. Leave aside the money-grubbing college presidents and the uncertainty-phobic sports punditocracy.

The same people complaining about the computers today were complaining about the polls yesterday. The BCS was instituted in part to keep repeats of a 13-0 BYU squad beating a 6-5 Michigan team and ending up #1. I remember when Virginia (yes, Virginia) started out ranked #15 and kept winning while teams just ahead of it kept losing in the right order. By midyear, U.Va. was ridiculously over-ranked at #1, accepted a Sugar Bowl bid, and then promptly lost 3 out of 4 games and became the post-child for over-eager bowl committees.

This year's Ohio St.-Michigan game proves the point. Michigan knew what it needed to do - win - and it couldn't do it. If everyone had gone into the game knowing that Michigan knew what it needed to do - keep it close - would the game have mattered as much? The question answers itself. In fact, while Ann Arbor and Columbus would have been just as enthralled, the rest of the country would only have cared if it were a blowout, knocking one of the teams out of title contention. In other words, the game would only have been interesting at a national level if it were unwatchable. Instead, we got the next round of the playoff Saturday night, known as USC-Notre Dame.

As for those who want the OhioSt.-Michigan rematch, comparing to Ali-Frazier, consider that such a three-match actually could happen if the two teams in question were from the SEC or the Big 12.

The only team with a beef right now might be Florida. But not a single poll and not a single computer has them ahead of USC, and only two computers (and no polls) have them ahead of Michigan. And one more late, cheap touchdown against FSU wouldn'thave made any difference. (Poor Urban Meyer had this happen to his 12-0 Utah team, too, but did anyone really think Utah belonged in the title game any more than Boise St. does this year?)

Everyone knows the rules - if you lose, lose early, not to your big rival on the last week of the season. So relax, people, and just enjoy the season and the games for what they are.

Also on Backbone...

We discussed Barack "The Phenom" Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. I think Obama's star is probably peaking a little too soon, especially since he hasn't actually done anything to deserve the attention. If you're going to look for an ethnic Democrat, Colorado's own Ken Salazar is a better choice.

Unfortunately, scheduled VIP Joseph C. Phillips seemed to have vanished without a trace last night, as we were unable to get in touch with him. Hopefully, we weren't just getting played, and we'll be able to have him on again soon.

The Empire Strikes Back

My good friend, Dr. Neil Dobro has responded to Rima Barakat's execrable op-ed of a week ago.

Barakat characterizes the terrorist Qassam rockets as "firecracker rockets." Since Israel removed all Jews from Gaza a year ago, more than 1,500 thank-you rockets and artillery bombs have landed in Israel from there. Eleven people have been killed and more than 100 wounded. Last week alone, a mother of four was killed, one man in the Israeli town of Sderot was killed and a factory worker there was critically wounded while another man's legs were blown off. If those rockets had landed in our great country, Barakat would have a hard time telling Americans that it was just an overgrown Fourth of July event. The notion that the United States would just sit back for the next 1,500 attacks would be absurd; and Barakat's counsel notwithstanding, it is no less absurd for Israel.

Read the whole thing.

November 25, 2006

Radio Books

This Sunday, we'll be interviewing Bruce Frohnen, editor of American Conservativsm: an Encyclopedia, among other books.

November 22, 2006

The Return of Holger Jensen?

Longtime Denver newspaper readers - of whom there seem to be fewer and fewer every year - will remember someone called, "Holger Jensen" who used to edit the Rocky's foreign coverage. Jensen had a thing about Israel. He didn't much like it. Eventually, his bias got the better of him when he allowed it to overwhelm his journalistic ethics and he printed an easily-fact-checkable-and-yet-un-fact-checked slander against Ariel Sharon. The Rocky had no choice but to can him, and he was last seen writing fishing articles.

This morning, the Rocky has printed what is easily one of the most dishonest pieces of Islamist propaganda ever to disgrace its pages. Then again, "dishonest" and "Islamist propaganda" are quite reundant.

Rima Barakat accuses Israel of deliberately murdering a random, innocent, Palestinian family for the crime of practicing for the 4th of July. She then calls on the world to hold the Jewish community here in the US accountable for this. Really.

Barakat begins with a bill of particulars against the IDF. Here's how it starts:

The latest massacre in Gaza of 18 members of the Athamna family, including eight children, who were sleeping in their beds, is another example of the level of contempt with which the Israel government views Palestinian lives. The regular use of disproportionate firepower against a trapped population not only violates international law but also contradicts the basic civilized conduct of any responsible government.

One might well think that the "basic civilized condust of any responsible government" would include preventing its citizens from launching armed missiles into schools, homes, cars, ice cream stands, and whatever other "soft targets" are in their way. One might be forgiven for thinking they include not launching cross-border raids to capture and murder soldiers. But such strictures apparently don't apply to the Hamas government of the Palestinian territories.

Of course, I suppose it's possible that the IDF troops, seeing a group of small children picking strawberries, just decided to pick up and machine-gun them all, although if they wanted the strawberries, they probably could have just taken them after the kids were finished.

No, this tragedy, like so many others, is a result of deliberate cynical Palestinian strategy - the placement of Qassam rocket launchers in civilian areas, in order to maximize the deaths of their own people for propaganda purposes. People like Ms. Barakat are mouthpieces for this sort of calculating blood libel, making hay on the deaths of the very people they purport to support. People like Ms. Barakat ought to be ashamed of themselves, yet apparently are beyond shame.

In fact, the Palestinians in question make use of the very humanity of the Israeli soldiers - which they then seek to deny. The Jerusalem Post reported the other day that masses of people flocked to the home of a targeted Hamas murderer, in order to prevent him from being killed or arrested by Israeli troops. I know Gaza has turned into a large school for martyrs, but my guess is that most of those people were there knowing they were safe from the depradations of the IDF.

Israel justifies these attacks as military responses to a simple homemade device called the Qassam "firecracker" rocket. But Israeli politicians do not believe that the Qassam creates a threat to Israeli security. In fact, Shimon Peres, has commented that "This hysteria over the Qassams must end."

Well, when you're quoting Shimon Peres, you know you've run out of options. I'm surprised she just didn't go all the way and quote Jimmy Carter. Let's make a deal - when the Qassams stop killing people in Sderot, and turning that and other border settlements into ghost towns, Israel will stop trying to uproot them. Until then, it's not really up to a government whose charter foresees the complete destruction of Israel in every paragraph to decide what constitutes a security threat.

Brutality has never brought peace to any country or people. Slavery, apartheid and Nazi concentration camps have eventually brought ruin and disgrace upon the perpetrators. All acts of mass slaughter of innocent civilians must be condemned by people of all faiths.

A special responsibility sits with people belonging to the Jewish tradition. After all, these atrocities continue to be committed in their names. It is time that they stand up and defend the Jewish faith from being associated with acts of heartlessness. We have yet to hear even a whisper of disapproval coming out of the American Jewish leadership. This silence from the Jewish community about Israeli atrocities is unconscionable.

One might well conclude that yes, in fact, Palestinian brutality, from Arafat to Abbas to Hamas, hasn't really gotten the Palestinians very much, and that they might want to take a different tack.

As for the call for American Jews to stop defending Israel, Barakat knows perfectly well that's not going to happen. Certainly not as long as Israel remains under existential threat from its Muslim neighbors. In fact, given Barakat's recent hosting of the Mufti of Jerusalem and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, such a call could be construed as a thinly veiled threat to bring that existential threat Stateside.

Ms. Barakat is apparently beyond shame. But the Rocky ought to know better.

Series 87

Oy. Finally.

The Series 87 is the last of the NASD licensing exams required to be a research analyst. It deals with the regulator best practices for sell-side research analysts, including the Chinese Wall between investment banking and research (what do they call that in China?), vaarious personal and institutional disclosures of potential
conflicts of interest, restrictions on trading and publishing, and so forth.

For some reason, I could pass all the sample tests, knew the material cold, and that just didn't translate into answering the questions right. But now, with a passing score, I'll finally be able to publish research reports under my own name.

And to move on to the next challenge. I'm not quite ready to revive the CFA blog yet, but I am ready to start studying for it again.

November 21, 2006

City Lights

It's almost Thanksgiving, and the lights are coming out for the month. Office buildings and government buildings have started with the displays, and it does actually add some cheer to the month. The Denver City and County Building has the gaudiest display in town. Although they don't have a sound and light show.

Even the sunset cooperated. There were high clouds, but not the wispy cirrus kind. Serious stratus-types. The wind had pushed them out away from the mountains, clearing the way for the sunset, and sculpting them into the wildest shapes, the kind of thing you'd see in a 1960s version of Mars. So with the setting sun, you got the edges of the clouds highlighted in the descending rainbow: white to yellow to orange to pink to purple. With the city lights starting to poke through the dusk, the whole show was worth twice the price of admission.

I remain convinced that our holiday schedule is badly out of whack. New Year's comes barely a week after the solstice, which isn't accidental, but still leaves about 8-10 weeks of cold, dark, and wet before the wildflowers start to peek through. The lights have been taken down, and the whole months of January and February have the air of a hangover. Some of the smaller towns have winter festivals of various kinds, but these are highly localized, tightly contained by the surrounding mountains.

If you're Jewish, you get the relief of Tu B'Shevat and Purim (with a hangover of its own), and unless you're in Israel or certain sections of New York, it's not like it spills out into the streets, or has weeks' worth of buildup of its own. Chinese New Year comes in January as well, but outside of New York and San Francisco it barely registers, and even there, for most people who aren't Chinese it just signifies a one-day interruption in the sale of cheap electronics.

There are holidays in January and February: Washington's Birthday, MLK Day, Valentine's Day, Lee-Jackson Day, but they're all either too private or too earnest, first-rank people, but second-rank holidays trying a little too hard.

November 20, 2006

More Media Post-Election Honesty

The Denver Post this morning admits that some Mexican move here illegally for the benefits, like decent health care. Funny that we didn't hear more about this before the election.

Backbone Books

Last night, we were lucky enough to interview Ron Luce, founder of Teen Mania, and author of Battle Cry For a Generation, and Dr. David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute, author of The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care. You can buy them both right here:


And then Hosting Matters went down. Seems as though I was sharing space with another blogger, and the server just wasn't big enough for the two of us. After HM relocated him to another server - no doubt violating myriad sections of the Geneva Convention in the process - things picked back up.

Election Day was, in most senses, very pleasant, although I wouldn't say it ended well. I started out by waiting in line an hour to vote. Some people weren't so lucky. Others weren't so persistent. And it was the remainder that put the unknown Cary Kennedy into the Colorado Treasurer's office over the eminently qualified Mark Hillman. I didn't actually get to use the new and improved electronic voting machines, each personally programmed by Karl Rove, but maybe next time.

(Last night on Backbone Radio, we interviewed Jim Spencer, who compared Mayor Hickenlooper's abdication of responsibility to what he imagined Mayor Daley Pere would have done. In fact, Mayor Daley Pere would have had the ballots filled out and counted beforehand.)

Fortunately, there was a Standing-in-Line Center right near DU, where I was to lecture Prof. Christina Foust's class on politics and communications. Students don't get to see real live conservatives in their natural habitat very often, and I don't get a chance to speak uninterrupted very often, so that part was a win-win.

In fact, the class was pretty typical of college classes. Some of the students were more engaged than others, with a few carrying the question-burden for the rest. Most listened attentively for most of the time, and a few were off planning that evening's entertainment. On the whole, though, I thought it was a fair discussion. The students were intelligent but not treacherous, and the class was certainly not the ambush that one hears so much about on college campuses. While I tried to bring it back to blogging & its role in the conservative movement, the students seemed more interested in discussing politics and some economics, so we stayed there most of the time.

I have to admit, I fumbled one question rather badly. One girl asked why we should care if Western Europe went Muslim. I responded, truthfully enough, that while we were good at building airplanes and world financial centers, they seemed good at crashing airplanes into such centers, and that the two were not morally equivalent. There was, of course, a better answer.

I should have asked her if she, as a woman, wanted to go to graduate school in France, only to find that the pre-landing announcement included instructions for donning the burka before deplaning at the Ayatollah Khomeini International Airport in Paris, that her student experience would include a relatively constant low-level fear of gang rape, punctuated by brief, but high, moments of such tension, and whether or not the murder of her classmate by her brother, for the crime of dating that cute Christian fellow across the aisle, would constitue sufficient reason for not wanting France to lose its intifada.

She probably would have just blinked at me. Clearly some students - like the Air Force ROTC cadet in the front row - understand what we're up against. For some others, it just requires too much imagination.

After that, a whirlwind trip to Charlotte and Dallas for a company visit. I can't talk much about the company visit just yet. I will, however, put in a plug for Gleiberman's, Charlotte's answer to the East Side Kosher Deli. Very good food, very pleasant service (although at a slightly Southern pace), and Malta. No, Malta.

And then last week, the server went down and recovered.

November 13, 2006

All Fundamentalisms Are Not Created Equal

Bookworm Room wonders what happens when you have the left’s favorite oppressed groups at each others’ throats.

The Left likes underdogs. Gays are underdogs. Palestinians are underdogs. Muslims are underdogs. What happens when you throw all three into the mix? This:
A group of gay Palestinian Americans canceled a planned pride march in East Jerusalem on Friday after one of them was beaten unconscious by a local man who said he was from the Waqf Muslim religious authority.

The beating incident occurred on the same day an Israeli gay pride rally went ahead as scheduled, though without a planned march through city streets. The march had been called off after threats by religious and right-wing opponents to mount huge counterdemonstrations. Only minor violence marred the event.


In the East Jerusalem beating, two men — one wielding a knife — came looking for the group of gay Palestinian Americans who were staying at the Faisal Hostel near the Damascus Gate of the Old City. One of the assailants identified himself as being from the Waqf, the clerical trust that administers Muslim religious sites in the city.

“I’m pretty terrified right now,” said Daoud, an MBA student from Detroit who declined to give his full name. “We left the hostel immediately, but when my friend went back to collect some things, they were waiting for him. They asked if he was with ‘the homos’ and then started beating him.”

I'm sure someone is citing this as evidence of the intolerance of both Orthodox Judaism and Islam. Note, however, that the rabbis aren't actually going around turning their yeshivas into training sites for anti-gay street gangs.

(Hat tip: American Thinker)

What's Three Months Between Friends?

Just when you want to try to give business the benefit of the doubt, you run into earnings season. Two of the companies I cover had fine income statements, and less-than-stellar statements of cash flows for the quarter. But of course, their cash flows were fine for the first three quarters combined. So guess which time period they reported their cash flows on?

I know they'll say something about seasonality and how you can't judge a company by its quarter, but if you're bound by law to report quarterly cash flows, report quarterly cash flows. Do they really think they're fooling anyone by making them back out the cash flows for the quarter, rather than just giving them out?

It's probably the same reason that 95% of companies use the indirect method of cash flows, which nobody understands, rather than the direct method, which everyone understands.

Monday, Monday

For those of you who thought maybe I was in my tent sulking after Black & Blue Tuesday, no such luck. I'll have an update at some point, but it involves, lecturing, voting, travelling, eating, and a few other -ings.

November 6, 2006

Campaign Ads: Sources & Incoherence

It's never too late to beat up on the other side's campaign ads. Angie Paccione has been running ads claiming that Marilyn Musgrave is the "13th most corrupt member of Congress." The source for this startling-if-true claim is flashed up on the screen for fewer frames than "RATS," the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. This is roughly equivalent to Keith Ellison sourcing the UN for his campaign information on Israel.

The second ad isn't dishonest so much as desperate. Ed Perlmutter claims that "Rick O'Donnell wanted to send 75,000 more troops to Iraq," thus making him, as Imus would say, George Bush's butt-boy on the issue. Given that both Bush and Rumsfeld have been arguing for years (incorrectly, I increasingly think) that we don't need any more troops in Iraq, that the military doesn't want any more troops in Iraq, and that we don't really have any more to put there even if we did want more there, this hardly makes O'Donnell simpatico with the administration on the question.

More than that, it shows the Dems' strategy in broad bold colors: nationalize the election by making it about Iraq, then pick whichever local strategy is likely to be more popular. In the 7th, argue for cut-and-run. Elsewhere, argue that we don't have enough troops there. The problem with this cognitive dissonance is that while it may be a recipe for nominal electoral success, it's hardly a recipe for a coherent policy, much less a successful one. When the both-feeters find themselves in caucus with the cut-and-runners, either one side or another or neither will have to win. I suppose they'll try to continue to ride the issue, crying to Charlie Rose that their majority isn't enough to overcome Republican intransigence on the issue.

One hopes the administration calls the Dems' bluff by quoting all those lefties who've said we need more troops, planting another 500,000 over there, and pointing them eastwards.

November 5, 2006


Did something unusual for me Saturday night - went to a party. I'm one of these people who dreads parties, and usually ends up having a good time, much to my surprise. One of the guys at the shul is turning 40 - poor sap - and his wife threw him a party with the whole minyan. Instead of welcoming him to the club, I felt like telling him, "you go on ahead, I'll catch up." In the event, it was fun seeing people in a setting other than lunch or kiddush.

So naturally, going to bed early, I also got up early - like around 4:00. This has been happening with some regularity, and I can't say I'm exactly thrilled. But I used the opportunity to take the dog down to Castlewood Canyon State Park for a more adventurous early morning walk. This was ill-fated from the get-go. The park doesn't open until 8:00, but the "Park Closed - Save Yourselves - Turn Back Now" sign doesn't indicate that, it just blocks the way. I probably could have found a place to hang out with a cup of coffee to kill the time, had I known. As it was, we both had to settle for the regular dog park.

So I came back home, removed a tree branch from a phone line, and rode the bike for 40 minutes. After 20 lbs., I've hit the Dreaded Plateau. You just have to keep reminding yourself that it's ok, that weight loss is pretty much an arithmetic problem - if you're expending more calories than you're taking in, you will lose weight. I'm sure in a week or two, I'll break out again, and drop what seems like 5 lbs. in a week. Of course, if I were a Democrat, I'll either be calling for a starvation diet or to just drop the whole enterprise altogether. Fortunately, I'll be listening to my inner Rumsfeld.

There was the Cowboys-Redskins game. For 59 minutes, I truly understood what it was like to be a Redskins fan in the 60s. The team missed everything - passes, blocks, tackles. They actually covered a punt at the goal-line so well that the Skins cover guy had time to turn around at the 1-yard-line and catch the punt. It skittered between his legs into the end zone. They should have added an arrow through the head of the logo at midfield.

With 30 seconds left and the score tied 19-19, the Skins kicker, who was lucky to keep the ball in the stadium, missed a 49-yard field goal. The Cowboys drove down the field to give Vanderjagt a 35-yarder of his own with 6 seconds. I stand up and walk to the TV, ready to bury the team & the season, and to leave the house. Well, Vanderjagt must have been liquored up, because the Skins block the kick, take it down to the Dallas 45, get a 15-yard face mask call, and kick a 47-yarder of their own to win the game.

Bill Parcells must hate Joe Gibbs.

So, out to the cafe to work until the show. Except that neither Panera nor the adjacent Peaberry can get their Internet connections to work. I do what I can offline, and finally turn myself in here at the station.

November 4, 2006

"Their Finest Hour"

Listeners to Hugh Hewitt's radio show are probably familiar with the closing lines of Winston Churchill's famous "Finest Hour" speech. The speech was delivered in 1940, just after Dunkirk, during the mopping up after the Battle of France, and well before the Battle of Britain began. While much of the speech consists of a clear-eyed assessment of the war, the last paragraph is worth reprinting in its entirety:

What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole worlds, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

I have this from a 1941 collection of Churchill's pre-war and wartime speeches, Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Fortuitously, the original buyer of the book tucked a column from the August 15, 1941 New York Times, just after the Atlantic Conference. Here's the closing:

...there is implied the creation of a post-war organization to maintain peace, with the United States a full partner in this effort.

This is the second great decision implicit in this hisoric Declaration of the Atlantic. It means that so long as the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt prevails, and so long as a great majority of the American people endorse his views on world affairs - as they do unquestionably today - the prestige and the influence and the resources of this country will be marshalled on the side of international law and order. This is the end of isolation. It is the beginning of a new era in which the United States assumesthe responsibilities which fall naturally to a great World Power.

One expects that Churchillian insights are still relevant today. Sad, then, that the most valuable words the New York Times has to offer on our current situation were written 65 years ago.

November 3, 2006

Pump Up The Margin Of Litigation

The Washington Post today joins in the Democratic fear-mongering about voter ID laws:

On Indiana's primary day, Rep. Julia Carson shoved her congressional identification card in a pocket, ran out of her house and raced down the street to be at her polling site when it opened at 6 a.m. The Democrat, seeking to represent Indianapolis for a sixth term, showed the card to a poll worker, who told her it was unacceptable under a new state law that requires every voter to show proof of identity.

The law compels voters to show an ID, issued by Indiana or the federal government, with a photograph and an expiration date. Carson's card was for the 109th Congress, but did not say when the session ends. "I just thought I was carrying the right thing -- if you have a card that has a picture and shows it is current," she said.

In the end, the poll worker telephoned a boss, and Carson was allowed to vote for herself in the five-way primary.

My guess is that this specific problem - trying to use a Congressional ID to vote - won't happen more than once in any given Congressional district. It rather smacks of trying to create a scene; I'm sure that Rep. Carson has a driver's license.

It's been a commonplace for Democrats to oppose ballot integrity measures. One can speculate on why this might be - perhaps their recent history of losing elections has something to do with it. But it remains true that the party has opposed efforts to require IDs to register or to vote, and the current Democratic candidate for Colorado Secretary of State is running on opposing special interest money - although whether or not he considers unions to be special interests is unclear. He has stated his opposition to registration and voter ID laws.

This sort of article is intended to prepare public opinion for the inevitable lawsuits charging voter intimidation and vote suppression. The Post makes no mention of

  • ACORN's numerous convictions in multiple states for registration fraud (including Colorado)
  • Steven Sharkansky's research into the miraculous nature of deceased voting (and the less-than miraculous nature of homeless voting in Washiington State
  • The clear intent of the May Day protest organizers to register illegal aliens to vote
  • The ACLU's stated desire to count every provisional ballot, regardless of validity

As a result, readers are left with the impression that nothing other than the fear of election fraud, rather than its documented occurrence, is motivating these laws, and that tens of thousands of voters - all of whom happen to conveniently live in closely-contested districts - will pay the price for this paranoia.

November 2, 2006

Carrying Costs

Guy asks whether Jews can carry just anything on Shabbat in side the eruv.

Yes. Sort of.

The short answer is that we can carry anything that we can carry. The longer answer is that there are some things that we just have no business carrying on Shabbat.

There's a category of object called Muktzeh, and these are objects that have no purpose on Shabbat. Remember, you can carry, but you still can't drive. Just because there's an eruv doesn't mean you can push the button to turn the crossing light into the little white walking guy. There are still forbidden activities, and objects whose only purpose is those forbidden activities are still forbidden. So. Since you can't write, you can't carry a pen. Since you can't drive, you can't carry your car keys. You can't cut, so put down those scissors now, young man. Make sense?

Hopefully, Guy now understands a little more. Most you are probably just more confused than ever.

November 1, 2006

Little ACORNs

ACORN has had four voter registration-gatherers in Missouri indicted for fraud. 'Bout time. ACORN's got a history of trying to jimmy elections, a real record that makes even the NAACP's worst nightmares about Die-Die-Diebold look like Matthew Broderick in Election. The group ought to just be taken out under RICO and be done with it.

Here's the irony: I noticed some ACORN flyers downtown the other day, advertising for workers to help them push the minimum wage indexing measure here in Colorado. The flyer stated that any applicant must have a photo ID and a Social Security card. I'm not even gonna try on this one.

First Rule of Holes

When disparaging the intelligence and precision of someone whose grades were better than yours, try to get the syntax right. "Every time I tried to mock you, the words just came out wrong," isn't exactly a calculated to score debating points.

OK, we've all been having a lot of fun at John Kerry's expense today. But what of the MSM? Over at, the writers are collecting a long list of comments by TV, radio, and newspaper reporters and commentators, all of them devoutly hoping that the story will disappear in a day or two. Here, the Denver Post ran a portion of the Washington Post report on the lame joke, which included the following two paragraphs:

The unusual back-and-forth that has little to do with the 2006 midterm elections comes as Democrats are planning to end the campaign by bashing Bush and GOP candidates for supporting the U.S. war policy.

A senior Democratic strategist said the party will run Iraq- focused ads in at least 15 of the most competitive House races between now and Election Day. The strategist, who would not discuss internal strategy on the record, said the Kerry comments are an unnecessary distraction but would soon be forgotten.

Well, I suppose that the positions of a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and ranking member of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs subcommittee (think: "I'm so Ronery") might be irrelevant to an election. Of course, the statement itself is internally contradictory beyond belief: if Senator Kerry is irrelevant to the mid-term elections, why is he out campaigning, and why are those candidates starting to cancel those appearances?

"Ravaging the Countryside Like Suleyman..."

From a 2005 Heritage Foundation study about troop demographics ("Who Bears the Burden?"):

If one single statistic could settle this issue, it is this: 98 percent of all enlisted recruits who enter the military have an education level of high school graduate or higher, compared to the national aver­age of 75 percent.[5] In an education context, rather than attracting underprivileged young Americans, the military seems to be attracting above-average Americans. What remains to explore is whether this pattern of military enlistment is (1) consistent across ZIP codes, (2) consistent across all branches of service, and/or (3) consistent proportionally across all levels of education.

Kerry's remarks got play in part because there's a lingering stereotype that most enlisted men join the military because they have no other options. I'm not so confident that a high school education, generated by the current teachers' union establishment, actually qualifies you to do much except learn more. But having one is essential credentialing, and 98% of troops have one.


Power, Faith, and Fantasy

Six Days of War

An Army of Davids

Learning to Read Midrash

Size Matters

Deals From Hell

A War Like No Other


A Civil War

Supreme Command

The (Mis)Behavior of Markets

The Wisdom of Crowds

Inventing Money

When Genius Failed

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Back in Action : An American Soldier's Story of Courage, Faith and Fortitude

How Would You Move Mt. Fuji?

Good to Great

Built to Last

Financial Fine Print

The Day the Universe Changed


The Multiple Identities of the Middle-East

The Case for Democracy

A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam

The Italians

Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory

Beyond the Verse: Talmudic Readings and Lectures

Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud